Whole Earth Access
|Founded||Berkeley, California (1969)|
|Headquarters||2950 7th Street, Berkeley, California 94710 U.S.|
The Whole Earth Access (1978  - 1998) started as a countercultural retail store in Berkeley, California. In the early 1990s, Whole Earth Access had 7 stores in Northern California. After filing for bankruptcy in 1996, all stores closed in 1998.
The store was created by two brothers, Larry and Gene Farb, in 1978, who bought a failing Berkeley store called Whole Earth Access. The first store, located in an industrial area of Berkeley, sold various brand names sought after by young affluents at a discounted price. Salespersons were technology-savvy and knowledgeable of their products. Gene Farb managed electronics and photographic merchandise, Larry Farb managed hardware and appliances, Laura Katz (Larry's wife) ran the housewares and clothing departments, and Toni Garrett (Gene's wife) handled book sales and mail order. The store also built some of the computers it was selling, and the Berkeley store on Shattuck avenue had a teleprinter, the ancestor of emails.
According to a 1985 issue of the store's Whole Earth Access Mail Order Catalog, (named after, but not connected to The Whole Earth Catalog which it also sold):
Our Berkeley store opened in 1969, inspired by but independent of The Whole Earth Catalog. It began by carrying books, a few woodstoves, a few power tools, and back-to-the-land equipment. Access to a wide variety of products was available at very low prices through special ordering from distributors' catalogs. Gradually the store began stocking the items most commonly ordered, and we now carry a wide range of top-quality products for basic living, still at very low prices. Our newest section is electronics and communications, which includes cameras, video, audio, and computers.
In the early 1990s, the company opened 4 more stores in Northern California, contracting debts to finance the expansion. In 1992, its sales peaked to $180 million.
In 1995, the San Jose and Concord stores were closed. In 1996, Basic Living Products, the parent company of Whole Earth Access, closed the Foster City and Sacramento stores, and filed for bankruptcy protection.
In November 1998, the three first and last stores of Whole Earth Access (Berkeley, San Rafael, San Francisco) went out of business.
Co-founder Gene Farb died 3 years later, in 2001.
- Whole Earth Access Mail Order Catalog: Access to quality products for good living at the lowest possible prices. Berkeley, California: Ten Speed Press. 1985. p. Inside front cover. ISBN 0898151325. OCLC 12234855.
- "Whole Earth Access files for Chapter 11". San Francisco Chronicle. May 2, 1996.
- Zonana, Victor F. (May 19, 1986). "One of Fastest-Growing Chains in U.S. : Whole Earth Access Stores Are 'Bargain Basement' for Yuppies". Los Angeles Times. pp. E1–E2.
- "Gene Farb, founder of Whole Earth chain". Sfgate.com. 21 June 2001. Retrieved 9 September 2016.
- Andrew O'Heir (18 August 2016). "Patty Hearst's America: What "American Heiress" gets wrong (and right) about an insane time and place". Salon.com. Retrieved 9 September 2016.
- "Whole Earth Access shutting two outlets". Sfgate.com. 24 July 1995. Retrieved 9 September 2016.
- Emert, Carol (November 11, 1998). "Whole Earth Closing Last 3 Stores". San Francisco Chronicle.
- "Whole Earth Access says it's closing all stores". San Francisco Business Times. November 11, 1998.